By Larry Beahan

Professor Robert Howarth has done the numbers. His plan to have New York State off fossil fuels and powered totally by renewable ones is published in the peer-reviewed journal Energy Policy. Read it at WWSEnPolicy.pdf.

He shows that by 2030, New York State could supply itself with energy entirely from wind, water and sun. He calls for the total replacement of fossil and nuclear energy with electricity from these renewables.

Conversion to all-electric would improve the efficiency of power-consuming devices by 37 percent. In his plan, energy sources would be 50 percent onshore and offshore windmills and 38 percent concentrated and dispersed solar panels, with the rest a mix of wave devices, tidal turbines, hydroelectric and geothermal plants.

He deals with the problem of variability of wind and sun by building over-capacity and storing the excess energy. It would be stored both where it is produced and where it is used, in batteries, thermal media, pumped water, compressed air, fly wheels, in the batteries of our new fleet of all electric vehicles and in the form of hydrogen for burning where high temperatures are needed.

Howarth’s peer-reviewed numbers tell us that the illness and deaths caused by the burning of fossil fuels costs New York, annually, $33 billion. Eliminating the cost of these illnesses alone would pay for this massive, job-producing conversion to clean electric power. A good portion of those dollars creates jobs for the 4.5 million workers who would build the new infrastructure, and 58,000 of those workers would stay on in their new jobs to run the system.

Sierra Club’s “Turn Don’t Burn” campaign brought Howarth to Buffalo recently to publicize his calculations and lead the way out of our fossil-driven Hades. We must act now. If we lose the reflectivity of the arctic ice through global warming, we will pass the tipping point from which the Earth may never return.

In the 1890s, during the first big oil boom, a circuit-riding preacher made the rounds of the oil fields preaching fire and brimstone in condemnation of drilling for oil. He proclaimed, “The Lord stored oil in the earth to fuel the fires of hell. To remove it is sinful and the world will feel his wrath.”

Today that preacher would feel vindicated to see the plague that oil drilling and fossil fuel burning has wrought: wildly erratic weather, melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, New Orleans flooded and much of New York City devastated. The air pollution that it produces annually makes countless thousands of New Yorkers ill and kills 3,200 of us.

Call the governor and tell him we want to be totally on wind, water and sun power by 2030.

Larry Beahan is conservation chairman of the Sierra Club Niagara Group.